Those of us with broken hearts make baffling choices at times

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On a Saturday morning earlier this year, I had brunch with F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Actually, his name is Jeff. But as I sat across from him over orange juice and omelets (his had ham), I had a “Great Gatsby” sort of moment.

Maybe it’s because Jeff is 6-foot-3 with wire-rimmed glasses and straight blond hair swept to one side. He went to Catholic high school and got his MBA at an Ivy League university.

So there I was, a short Jewish girl with curly hair, Russian grandparents and a house full of Marc Chagall prints. And I found myself thinking: What’s a girl like me doing on a date like this?

Thing is, this wasn’t the first time in recent memory I’d found myself sitting across from a Catholic high school grad.

Since my marriage broke up a year and a half ago, I’ve had more than a few dates with men who wouldn’t know a bout of shpilkes if it jumped up and bit them on the tush.

My first real attempt at loving again came with a burly fly fisherman from Montana. He could pick me up and toss me over his shoulder with one arm. A “guy’s guy” in the most fisherman-like sense of the word, he hooked up my new VCR as fast as you can say “Annie Hall.”

My Montana man had sweet eyes, a giant laugh and a heart as open as the plains of his home state. But once, when we were shopping in Sausalito, we looked in the window of a ceramics store. “What a beautiful kiddush cup!” I exclaimed. “What’s a kiddush cup?” he asked.

Imagining the Jewish home I hope to create one day, I felt my heart tense. Not long afterward, I told Montana man I couldn’t see him anymore.

Still, counterintuitive as it may seem, I continued to accept dates with non-Jewish men.

“Leslie,” my mom said to me several times. “It’s just not who you are.”

After all, I’d always dated men with biblical names and talmudic knowledge to match. Perchik from “Fiddler on the Roof” is practically my dream man.

But we of the broken heart do funny things. We try on new identities and turn away from what we know and believe.

That’s what hit me after my brunch with F. Scott.

Six years ago, I stood under the chuppah with a wonderful Jewish man, a man with whom I planned to have children named Benjamin and Ariela. But for complex reasons that took me quite some time to understand, we are no longer together.

The breakup left a hole in my heart. I felt lost and afraid. More than once, I looked at our framed ketubah, taken off the bedroom wall and now resting against a wall in the closet. Bordered by gold leaves are the rabbis’ signatures and the hopes and promises we’d written and recorded on the sacred document.

Promises to love one another always. Promises to stick with each other through the hard times. Promises to create a home brimming with laughter and Jewish tradition.

After my date with F. Scott, I came home. It was a gloomy Saturday, my street was quiet and the barren fruit trees in my garden glistened with raindrops. I felt a strange sense of peace and resolve. That’s it, I thought to myself. When it comes to dating, I’m staying in the tribe.

Because a marriage that starts with a joyful Jewish wedding doesn’t have to end in a shroud of tears. Because dreams of a Jewish home and family are as real as the people who imagine them.

F. Scott, after all, may be the most wonderful man born to the 20th century. But the tradition I hold so dear, the tradition that informs my identity in its deepest recesses, is, and probably always will be, foreign to him.

Love, for all its wonders, can be a tough haul. When I find it again, I want to feel like I’ve come home.